Fire chiefs across state consider warning: Mitigate, or else

Garry Briese, executive director of the Colorado State Fire Chiefs, told an interim legislative committee Monday that threatening to not respond could be just the sort of strong message homeowners need to hear. “We’re going to make it increasingly clear as the fire service that we will not deploy personnel to defend unmitigated properties, and will move to the homes and structures that can be saved … ” Briese said. “We’re going to make it increasingly clear that we’re not going to jeopardize the lives of firefighters for homes that have not been mitigated.” Briese said homeowners often have short memories. After devastating fire seasons, such as the ones in 2012 and ’13, homeowners tend to pay attention. But during moderate fire seasons, such as the one experienced across most of Colorado this summer, homeowners tend to let their property go, taking few steps to mitigate, Briese said. But he pointed out liability concerns with failing to respond to homes that are burning. Jurisdictions that have attempted similar programs have found themselves involved in costly lawsuits. Fire chiefs would like the Legislature to tackle the issue in order to offer statutory guidance. “We need to sit down with the trial lawyers and talk about it because if we don’t do that, then you’re going to have incident commanders going, ‘If I don’t do this, then I’m going to get sued,'” Briese said.